BHUTAN- THE LAND OF THUNDER DRAGON
Bhutan, a Buddhist kingdom on the Himalayas’ eastern edge, is known for its monasteries, fortresses (or dzongs) and dramatic landscapes that range from subtropical plains to steep mountains and valleys. In the High Himalayas, peaks such as 7,326m Jomolhari are popular trekking destinations. Paro Taktsang monastery (also known as Tiger’s Nest) clings to cliffs above the forested Paro Valley.
Bhutan holds many surprises. This is a country where the rice is red and where chilies aren’t just a seasoning but the main dish. It’s also a deeply Buddhist land, where monks check their smart phones after performing a divination, and where giant protective penises are painted beside the entrance to many houses. Yet while it visibly protects its Buddhist traditions, Bhutan is not a museum. You will find the Bhutanese well educated, fun loving and well informed about the world around them. It’s this blending of the ancient and modern that makes Bhutan endlessly fascinating.
The two main cities are Thimphu, the capital city and Paro, the city with only international airport in the country. The other important city is Phuentsholing which is an Indo-Bhutan border town and is one of the entry point to Bhutan by surface from India.
|Location:||Located in the eastern Himalayas, Bhutan is bordered by China in the north & Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Assam & West Bengal in the east, west & south.|
|Area:||38,398 sq. km.|
|Altitude:||Varying from 180 m. to 7550 m. above sea level.|
|Population:||Approx 7 hundred thousand|
|Local time:||6 hours ahead of GMT & 30 minutes ahead of IST.|
|Religion:||Mahayana Buddhism & Hinduism.|
Best time to travel: Bhutan has four distinct season – spring, monsoon, autumn and winter. Spring and autumn is the best time to visit Bhutan i.e. end of February till end of March and September to November. If you love flowers, you will get plenty of them in May, June and July. November, December, January and February will be blessed with breath taking mountain views, sunny days and the morning/evening chills.
National Emblem: The National emblem, contained in a circle, is composed of a double diamond thunderbolt placed above a lotus, surmounted by a jewel & framed by two dragons. The double diamond thunderbolt represents the harmony between secular & religious power; which results from the Buddhist religion in its Vajrayana form. The lotus symbolizes purity; the jewel – sovereign power; & the two dragons a male & female stand for the name of the country the thunder dragon (Druk Yul).
National Flag: The national flag is rectangular & divided into two parts with a white dragon in the middle. The upper yellow half signifies the country’s secular authority of the King & the lower saffron orange half signifies the religious practice & spiritual power of Buddhism.
National Tree : Cyprus (Cupresses Corneyana).
National Flower : Blue Poppy (Mecanopsis Grandis).
National Animal : Takin (Budorcas Taxicolor).
National Bird : Raven (Corvus Corax Tibetanus).
National Day : 17th December, coronation of Gogsar Ughen Wangchuk as the first King of Bhutan.
National Dress : Gho for Men & Kira for Women.
National Sports : Archery.
Currency : Ngultrum, same value as Indian Rupee.
People: Bhutanese are friendly & hospitable people. The large majority of Bhutanese people are a homogeneous group divided linguistically into three broad sub-groups. These are Sharchops, Ngalong & Lhotshampa.
Food: Staple diet is red rice, buck-wheat, wheat, maize, pork, beef, chicken, yak meat, cheese & chilies (taken as vegetable – not as spice).
Arts & Crafts: Bhutan is known for handicraft items in bronze, silver & other metals. Sculpting of religious figures is widely practiced & every temple, houses are large brightly painted & gilded statues of the Buddha & other saints.
Architecture: The castle-like Dzongs, with their gently tapering walls classic lines, large courtyards & beautiful galleries, are among the finest examples of Bhutanese architecture.
Living Culture: In almost every Dzongs (fortresses that house both the monastic & the Govt. administrative wings) there is an annual traditional festival (tsechus) that normally spans 3-4 days. Colorful & well choreographed mask dances are performed during the tsechus. Due to the nature of the lunar calendar, exact dates for tsechus vary from year to year.
DZONGS, PLACES, FESTIVALS
- Jakar Dzong
- Wangduechholing Dzong
- Mebar Tsho
- Peling Sermon Chorten
- Ura New Lhakhang
- Gasa Dzong
- Phuentsholing Lhakhang
- Kharbandi Lhakhang
- chasilhakha Lhakhang
- Bongo Block
- Chacha Dzong
- Lhuntse Dzong
TREKKING SEASON IN BHUTAN
Between mid-June and mid-September one should expect regular rainfall.
At altitude beneath 3,000 meters leaches can be a challenge.
Driving time between various places in Bhutan
|From||To||Distance (Km)||Driving Time|
|Thimphu||Paro||54 km||60 min|
|Thimphu||Phuentsholing||171 km||6 hours|
|Phuentsholing||Bagdogra||170 km||4 hours|
|Thimphu||Wangduep Phodrang||70 km||3 hours|
|Thimphu||Punakha||71 km||3 hours|
|Punakha||Wangdue Phodrang||23 km||45 min|
|Wangdue Phodrang||Trongsa||129 km||4 hours 30 mins|
|Trongsa||Bumthang||68 km||2 hours 30 mins|
|Bumthang||Mongar||193 km||7 hours|
|Mongar||Lhuentse||75 km||3 hours|
|Mongar||Trashigang||91 km||3 hours 30 min|
|Trashigang||Chorten Kora||51 km||2 hours|
|Trashigang||Samdrup Jongkhar||180 km||6 hours 30 min|
|Samdrup Jongkhar||Guwahati||101 km||3 hours|
|Samdrup Jongkhar||Phuentsholing||356 km||9 hours|
GETTING TO BHUTAN
By Air: Paro is the only International operational airport in Bhutan and is connected by Druk Air & Bhutan Airlines. Druk Air is the national carrier of Bhutan, which operates flights from Indian cities of New Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Gaya, Bagdogra & Guwahati. Bhutan Airlines operates regularly from Kolkata, Delhi and Gaya. During summer some chartered flights are operated from Mumbai and Ahmedabad.
By Road: Bhutan is connected to India by surface through its South Western border town of Phuentsholing. The nearest Indian towns from Phuentsholing are Hasimara, Alipurdwar, Jalpaiguri & Siliguri. Bhutan is also connected to India through its South Eastern Border of Samdrup Jongkhar which is about two and half hours drive from Guwahati and Gelephu located in Sarpang District of Southern Bhutan.
By Rail: Though Bhutan does not have any rail link but it is conveniently reached by road from nearest Indian Railway stations at New Jalpaiguri (Siliguri), Hasimara, Alipurdwar & Guwahati.